Whether you're working from home or you're able to safely get back into the office, creating an atmosphere that's both inspiring and highly functional is essential for productivity. Considering so many businesses have had to constantly adapt to COVID-19 safety precautions over the past several months, it can be a challenge to do so, but if you're in need of some sage advice for how to set up your work desk in a way that's as chic as it is motivational, who better to ask than some seriously stylish — and creative — female CEOs?
Even if your current setup is a makeshift desk (read: dining room table, etc), you can make it a place that gets your creative juice flowing while feeling totally organized by knowing what to keep around — as well as what to ditch. During these especially difficult times, most of the businesswomen TZR spoke with acknowledged that making your work space soothing was crucial, and having only objects around that bring joy makes a huge difference in terms of productivity. "I think creating a zen inspired environment is not just about the objects placed around you, but also the mental headspace that you enter the workday with," explains Oleema Miller, Co-Founder and Creative Director of swimwear brand Mikoh. "To make a space function for work, place pieces that make you happy or might remind you of a fun trip. Life is what you make of it."
For some of these CEOs, objects that keep things neat and orderly are the MVPs, while for others, it's all about setting a serene mood with plants, favorite beauty products, candles, and other stress relievers. Ready to set yourself up for success? Read ahead for more ideas that will help you create your ultimate work zone — wherever you happen to be.
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How To Set Up Your Work Desk: Get Organized
Nearly all of the creative entrepreneurs TZR spoke to noted that staying organized was essential to having a productive work day. "Ever since I was a kid, I loved to put things away in an orderly fashion and have always thrived when every single thing had a place to call home," Miller says. "For me, I cannot get a single thing done until my home, my workspace, and my mental clarity is all in order — it is then that I can be the most productive."
Sonja Rasula, Founder of Unique Markets and more recently Care Package — a subscription box service which was created to boost small businesses — keeps essentials like pens, paper clips, scissors, hand lotion, and glasses nearby but neatly arranged in beautifully designed vessels as to not disturb her work flow. "To keep clutter on my desk to a minimum, I have a multi-level letter organizer next to it that holds loose papers, bills, notes, etc.," she adds.
Her desire to keep an orderly desk is also what inspired Karla Gallardo, Co-Founder and CEO of Cuyana, to design one of the brand's latest leather tech accessories. "Because I’m typically juggling mom duties, various meetings, and miscellaneous to-dos on any given day, organization is key for my work space," she says. "I always keep my Tech Carryall nearby (we designed this one with room for your chargers, too!)."
And to stay on track, Sophie Monet, Founder and Designer of Sophie Monet Jewelry is sure to keep a planner or calendar on hand. "It’s so easy to get so sidetracked and have a million tabs open or thoughts running through that I know it’s critical that I have a place to [...] set some deadlines and put things in the calendar when they happen so I can always (at least try to) stay on schedule," she explains.
How To Set Up Your Work Desk: Be Hands-On
Some creative working women also find it helpful to put pen to paper and jot down notes, sketch, create mood boards offline as a way to stay inspired. "I like to have my favorites pens to sketch, some inspirational books like 365 Days of Positive Thinking, and a Pantone book for colors." says Ilana Kugel, Founder and Creative Director of luxury activewear brand Koral.
And Chelsea Neman Nassib, Founder and CEO of Tappan Collective, also benefits from this trick. "I have my devices, a fresh moleskin and nothing else," she explains. "To avoid distractions outside of the tech pings and needs of my team I really pair back so that I can balance business development and artist relationships."
While Alyssa Wasko of Donni, admits that her tendency is to fill her space with scattered notes, keeping one lovely notebook nearby for her handwritten lists helps her feel more organized and focused. "I feel my most creative when everything is in its place," she says.
How To Set Up Your Work Desk: Stay Hydrated
CEOs are just like you: They have to constantly remind themselves to drink water! And having physical reminders to stay hydrated on their desks helps keep them accountable. "I try to drink two 32 ounce water bottles a day and a straw is so key," says Puno, Founder of ilovecreatives. "[So we] made this water bottle with a fun silicon straw that folds inside."
For Miller, a glass carafe filled with alkaline water and fresh squeezed lemon is always on hand so she has not excuses, and Teri Johnson, Founder of Harlem Candle Co., takes it one step further with the inclusion of beautifully designed coasters. "[They] prevent water stains on my desk and to remind me to drink more water," she explains.
How To Set Up Your Work Desk: Create A Mood
What's an inspiring work desk without some mood-enhancing objects? Not everything has to be all business, and each woman TZR spoke to had their own set of personal objects that helped set a happy and peaceful mood. Unsurprisingly, designer and Jungalow founder Justina Blakeney's work desk must-have is a thriving houseplant in a well-designed vessel.
And Borona Fallshaw, Founder of CBD brand Mello has a similar approach in setting up her NYC office space — which offers mainly concrete views. "I have covered the window with hanging plants," she says. "Three hanging plants in fancy planters and three succulents on the sill. It is very calming to be surrounded by plants, and also reassuring that I am winning at adulting, as I have managed to keep them alive." Flowers can also act as an instant mood booster, so Rasula makes sure to have fresh ones on hand and Kugel opts for a potted orchid.
Jewelry designers and brand founders Jacquie Aiche and Anna Sheffield count on crystals to keep them energized and inspired. "I keep a few of my current obsession gemstones around me — in little boxes or gemstone bowls," she says. And Aiche, who uses crystals to feel more connected and grounded, does the same. "Each day, I gather the stones and other minerals I feel drawn to and place them around me," she explains. "Crystals always have the power to give me the sense of calm, balance and clarity I crave."
Candles were another popular pick among these chic CEOs in terms of creating more ambience no matter where they're working. Kugel's favorite is by Cire Trudon and Puno even created her own version — scented with palo santos, saffron tobacco, and vanilla — emblazoned with the message "Don't Burn Out." Plus proceeds from the candle benefit LA's Downtown Women's Center.
A candle expert herself, Johnson prefers burning Harlem's Langston scent — which was inspired by Langston Hughes's creative space — to help get inspired while working. "For me this fragrance blend sparks creativity and is so delightful that I can easily work from my desk all day," she says.